Letters to the Editors

GOOD SPORTS

I enjoyed Jeff Brazil's "How to Build a Dynasty" (July/August). The Cardinal's athletic prowess is a record of performance about which Stanford is understandably proud. The author may have left a misimpression in one regard, however. Although my alma mater (Yale) and current venue (Harvard) compete with Stanford for academically distinguished student-athletes, neither they nor any Ivy League school offers athletic scholarships (versus Stanford's 280, according to Brazil). In that sense, they don't even pretend to be Stanford's peers. Competitive sports they offer aplenty -- Harvard apparently has more NCAA Division I teams and athletes than any other school in the division -- but on a wholly smaller scale.

John S. Rosenberg
Editor, Harvard Magazine
Cambridge, Massachusetts

The latest issue, with your first-ever foldout cover, Jeff Brazil's superbly reported lead story and Barbara Tannenbaum's fascinating portrayal of Anna Deavere Smith, has escalated Stanford into the top 10 of the magazines I regularly read.

Ted Bache
Menlo Park, California

Your cover photographer's decision to avoid any smiles on the athletes' faces achieved a very negative effect with me: they all look like a bunch of snotty, entitled young people. I am sure this is not the case in real life, but it turned me off big-time from wanting to read about them.

Nina Scott, MA '61, PhD '68
Amherst, Massachusetts

Interesting story on why Stanford wins the Sears Cup every year. In reason No. 7, "Money Talks," you say that the athletics department endowment of $170 million provides about $5 million per year to the athletics budget. That is only about a 3 percent return. Why so low? Is much of the endowment not income-bearing? Or is a lot of the income used to grow the endowment itself? Or is it just earning a lousy yield?

James Turner, MS '63, PhD '67
Menlo Park, California

The athletics department replies: The total endowment market value of $170 million is an aggregate of the investment portfolio. The $5 million from endowment payout represents the return from the financial aid portion only, which provides an annual payout of approximately 5 percent. In addition, some income from the funds is returned to grow the endowment.

According to your article, "86 percent of Stanford's scholarship athletes earned degrees . . . close to the 93 percent overall graduation rate." This is a sloppy way of saying that the scholarship athletes' failure rate of 14 percent is twice the overall failure rate of 7 percent. I am not knocking the athletes: considering the demands on their time, that failure rate is remarkably low. As the figures in your article imply, it's half the failure rate at the University of Michigan and one-third that at ucla. But can we please have more respect for simple math?

Peter Bradshaw
Professor emeritus, mechanical engineering
Menlo Park, California

I counted seven Nike logos on your "winning and winning" cover. I may be hopelessly old-fashioned, but I think athletic team uniforms, especially those of my alma mater, should be free of corporate logos.

Michael Fullerton, '62
Berkeley, California

Eight of the 11 athletes on your cover are wearing black as one of their uniform colors. The uniforms look quite sharp -- but did our school colors change? Is this a marketing ploy to get me to replace my Cardinal-and-white attire? By the way, the Superman-meets-the-Tree logo on Misty Hyman's towel is (as we used to say) sweet!

Eric Abrams, '85
Oakland, California


Amanda Lane

POETIC JUSTICE

Your article about my work ("Poetic License," May/June) includes a photo of my writing table with a piece of Chinese calligraphy on the wall behind. I feel that both poet and calligrapher deserve to be acknowledged. The poet is Wang Wei, of the 8th century. The poem, "Birdsong Brook," is in my book of translations, Three Chinese Poets, which I dedicated to one of the best teachers I have ever had -- Professor Zhuang Yin, who taught me Chinese at Stanford. I shall repeat my dedication, with renewed thanks to him for his calligraphy of the poem, for the enthusiasm for Chinese that he imbued me with and for the example of his exhilarating independence of spirit:

Professor Zhuang, whose stern pen drew
Red rings around my puerile scrawling,
I hope this book appears to you,
If not appealing, not appalling.

Enthusiastic and sardonic,
Exacting, warm, and too soon past,
Your classes, once my daily tonic,
Have borne eccentric fruit at last.

Vikram Seth, MA '79
London, England


GLUT REACTION

"Pecking at Crumbs" (July/August) hit home. Having recently completed a doctorate in the social sciences, I have seen many people struggle with the PhD glut. I believe doctoral programs, no matter how prestigious, need to think more creatively about career options. My impression is that many scholars who train graduate students are open to assisting them in preparing for "nontraditional" careers but are unsure how to do it. It is time to reconsider the goals and roles of graduate education.

Anne Hickling, '89
Greensboro, North Carolina

The non-news that sufficient employment at colleges does not exist for humanities PhDs is very sad for the candidates and those recently degreed. In the world of academia -- as in the real world -- the revelation that a job in one's field of study is nowhere promised comes as a hard but useful lesson. Deconstruction occurs in life as well as in literature.

There is an answer to the PhD glut: they can teach humanities subjects at the high school level. In the better school districts, teachers with doctorates are paid more generously than assistant and associate professors. We need teachers with subject-matter mastery in our schools, as opposed to generalists with education degrees.

Paul D. Speer Jr., '53
Indian Creek, Illinois

The nationwide PhD glut has coincided with a push to corporatize higher education. Trustees and legislators across the country spent much of the 1980s and '90s calling for budget cuts and more teaching. University administrators often responded to budget pressures by encouraging tenured faculty to retire and then hiring part-time faculty. Even though these part-timers are well qualified to teach, the quality of education suffers. Most part-timers have to combine multiple jobs and so are unable to invest as much of themselves in the lives of students. And, since part-time faculty are far less likely to teach the same courses more than once, their good courses rarely have the chance to become great ones.

Your article leaves the impression that the situation is of limited scope and essentially intractable. To the contrary, the quality of higher education in the United States affects every American, and there are important steps we can all take. Ask your state legislator to support a bill calling for no more than one-third of all courses in any department in your state's university system to be taught by non-tenure-track faculty. Put pressure on your region's college accreditation association to make the ratio of part-time to tenure-track faculty an important criterion for reaccreditation.

Kevin Hearle, '80
San Mateo, California

Your July/August issue presents two approaches to the PhD glut. "Pecking at Crumbs" suggests that serious shortages of academic job vacancies warrant decreasing the number of doctorates awarded, while the obituary on drama chair Charles Lyons (Class Notes) praises his vision of an "artist-scholar" combining intellectual and practical knowledge.

Stanford will be stronger if it follows Lyons's lead by finding ways to promote lifelong learning, which implies discovering ways to encourage more, not fewer, doctorates. As I recall, it was a goal of the Stanfords that this University graduate people with practical skills.

Carl Oliver, '62
Thousand Oaks, California


A FEW GOOD CARS

I find it surprising and ridiculous that the administration has decided not to allow freshmen to bring cars (Farm Report, July/August). Despite the University's reported statistics (48 percent have cars? I don't think so!), most freshmen do not have cars and are not taking up too many parking spaces. But an important part of freshman life depends on at least a few classmates having cars. Dorm trips to San Francisco or Tahoe would not be possible without freshman drivers. And imagine the frustration of a residential assistant who is consistently bugged for quick drives to the store or for fast food.

Craig Baumgartner, '02
Redwood City, California


GETTING PAST GENITALS

Upon reading Professor Paul Robinson's interview regarding Gay Lives (Shelf Life, July/August), I bought the book. I found it overall a sensitive, even brilliant contribution. I'm afraid, however, that many straights will be put off by his exclamation in Stanford, "Listen, bub, genitals are what it's all about." His ill-advised jocularity plays into stereotypes promoted by people like Jerry Falwell, based on the unfortunate preoccupation of some gays with solipsist sex. Actually, Dr. Robinson's book -- and his own life -- reveals that in a loving relationship of any kind, genitals aren't all of it.

Hughson Mooney, '45, MA '46, PhD '52
Redwood City, California


WAKE-UP CALL

Although grateful that you published the dream chapter from my book, The Promise of Sleep ("While You Were Sleeping," July/August), I would rather the overriding purpose of the book had been communicated. I have dedicated the final phase of my long career at Stanford to transferring the lifesaving knowledge we have accumulated to my students and the general public. Pervasive sleep deprivation and undiagnosed sleep disorders are arguably the nation's largest health problem and, at the same time, the most invisible.

I have tried to make my undergraduate course, Sleep and Dreams, a model for teaching this essential knowledge. Alas, citing budgetary constraints, the human biology program has withdrawn its small but crucial financial support. If I were younger and had more time, I would attempt to generate support by organizing my approximately 15,000 past students into a Stanford Sleep and Dreams Alumni Association. The content and style of The Promise of Sleep was inspired by the many undergraduates I have been privileged to teach, and it is, in a sense, their gift to the world of the next century that we shall not have taught and learned in vain.

William C. Dement
Berry Professor of Psychiatry
Stanford, California


EXPENSIVE LEMONADE

In the interest of total accuracy I must point out a slight error in Jim Tankersley's otherwise very fine account of this year's graduation festivities (Farm Report, July/August). Having just finished putting my son through Stanford -- he was graduating that day -- I paid particular attention to the "Stanford Start-Up" lemonade-stand sign. The price quoted was not a mere $120, but a much more realistic $120,000.

Robert A. Boas
Atlanta, Georgia


DECONSTRUCTION

Although David Stoll both constructs and deconstructs Rigoberta Menchú, his book cannot withstand the same type of scrutiny ("Truth and Consequences," May/June). Stoll asserts, for example, that a Guatemalan army massacre at the Spanish embassy in 1980, in which Rigoberta's father was killed, was actually a self-immolation coordinated by indigenous protesters -- yet Spanish military investigators and the Commission for Historical Clarification concluded that the army carried out a premeditated firebombing of the embassy. And he claims that the generals who ruled Guatemala between 1974 and 1983 "scaled back terror" and "rein[ed] in the death squads" -- despite extensive documentation that army abuses and massacres persisted and intensified during that period.

Finally, Stoll should be held accountable for his choice of informants. One is Alfonso Rivera, whose criticism of Rigoberta is given special authority because he served as municipal clerk in her hometown for 30 years. What Stoll doesn't mention is that Rivera was removed from office and jailed in 1994 for corruption and misuse of public funds.

Victoria Sanford, MA '95
PhD candidate
Cultural and social anthropology
Stanford, California

David Stoll replies: The Spanish embassy fire is attributable to the Molotov cocktails of the protesters because of the testimony of the Spanish ambassador, who said he saw a masked protester (probably a university student, not an indigenous peasant) throw a Molotov in a room crowded with nearly 40 protesters and their hostages. It failed to ignite. Some minutes later, he was propelled out of the room by an explosion that occurred behind him, among the protesters and hostages. He assumed it was a second gasoline bomb. Like any responsible account of the tragedy, mine acknowledges the need for more investigation. As for the truth commission, it agreed that the Molotovs of the protesters exploded but blamed the invading police for starting the fire, a hypothesis for which there is little evidence.

Like the truth commission report, my book refers to ups and downs in repression from 1974 to 1983. Victoria Sanford's accusation that I minimize the army's abuses is unfounded. Her attack on the former secretary of Rigoberta's hometown is ill-informed. While Alfonso Rivera criticized Rigoberta to the New York Times, with me he always defended her, which is how he is quoted in my book (and anonymously, like my other sources). When Alfonso went to jail for graft, he did so along with four other members of a pro-Rigoberta town council supported by the Menchús, and the convictions are noted in my book.


ARCHIVAL ACQUISITION

Having worked extensively in the Russian archives myself, I can attest how difficult it often is to get even small things done over there. Charles Palm and his colleagues ("Cracking the Kremlin Files," May/June) deserve enormous credit for having carried out the immensely complicated Hoover-Chadwyck Healey project. The fate of the former Soviet archives is still uncertain, but the project guarantees scholars from all countries permanent access to millions of pages of key documents.

As delighted as I am that Stanford and the Hoover Institution have taken the lead on this matter, I am also glad that Harvard will be purchasing a full set of the microfilms, thanks to a generous donation from an alumnus. This ensures that scholars on both coasts of the United States will have ready access to the documents.

Mark Kramer, '82
Director, Harvard Project on Cold War Studies
Cambridge, Massachusetts


 

The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford

WINNING AT WHAT COST?

Your latest issue presents a dichotomy if ever there was one. The expressions on the athletes' faces ("How to Build a Dynasty," July/August) were not of joy, but of the business of winning -- not a tooth in sight. But the problem I have is not with Art Streiber's photographic style but with the contrast between the athletes' faces on the cover and those of the coaches inside the magazine. The color and gender mix of the athletes differs dramatically from the almost completely white male coaching staff -- as does the article on Tom Williams's efforts to increase the number of black football coaches (Farm Report, July/August). I think Mr. Williams look no further than Palo Alto to find evidence of his quote: "It doesn't matter what color your skin is. If you win, they're going to keep you."

Maybe the left hand simply does not know what the right hand is doing. Recently Stanford held a two-day conference called "Models for Diversity: The University's Role in Shaping an Inclusive Society," in which speakers emphasized the striking benefits and acknowledged the problems of increased campus diversity.

I ask myself: how the heck did I get in? As a high school math and computer science teacher, what is the answer when my students ask, "how do I get in?" As a parent, do I hope my children want to get in? From Stanford's desire to compete against Harvard, Yale, and Princeton for students of Calvin Miaw's ilk (Farm Report, July/August) to its cutbacks in humanities graduate students ("Pecking at Crumbs," July/August), my alma mater wants the best and the brightest -- but they should know how to win the game of life.

Send us your athletes and smartest. Send us your ethnically and culturally diverse students. But you need to find your own place in the competitive, capitalistic environment called the Farm. Our coaches do not look like you, but they win. Finally, if you are interested in the humanities, work hard, have a difficult life, be patient, apply to be a Stegner fellow in the creative writing program, and we will feature you when you publish your first bestseller ("Success Stories," July/August).

Paul Juarez, '75
Oakland, California


PARENTAL PRAISE

I couldn't agree more with Betsy Swann Crowder, MS '72, about the superb quality of Stanford. Since becoming a subscriber by virtue of being the chair of Stanford Parents in Thailand, I have greatly enjoyed the magazine. It has helped me keep up with Stanford events and development, which of course helps me perform my duties as a parent and staunch supporter of Stanford.

When my periodicals arrive, I go first for Stanford. And when time comes to clean out the shelves, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, The Economist go but Stanford stays. The look, the design, the articles, the news, even the ads are things to go back to.

Please keep them coming.

Nirund Jivasantikarn
Lampang, Thailand


MANDATORY RETIREMENT

One reason for the faculty housing crunch (Follow-Up, May/June), I'm told, is that retirees don't want to leave Stanford. How about a retirement community tailored to the special interests of Stanford retirees? I do not have in mind cosmetic tinkering with the kind of retirement community currently in vogue, but instead a quantum leap in retirement community design.

Carl Oliver, '62
Thousand Oaks, California


SCHWAB'S STRUGGLE

I enjoyed the article about discount broker Charles Schwab and his disability ("Charles Schwab's Secret Struggle," March/April).

I have a hearing impairment from birth and some learning disabilities.

Jeff McGuire
San Francisco, California


THE HP WAY

I just finished reading your wonderful article about Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard ("Founding Fathers," July/August 1998). Thanks for the great work!

Pete Ulrich
Fort Collins, Colorado


SELECTIVE STOPS

Since this is a reunion year for me, it is a time to reflect upon my experiences at Stanford. For the most part, it was a great place where I made some lifelong friends while receiving an outstanding education. I have recommended the University to several people who were considering further schooling, and have made occasional contributions over the years.

I had set of experiences during my undergraduate career, however, that have troubled me to this day. I was stopped on a number of evenings by the campus police, while I was walking home alone from the library or friend's dorms, and questioned about what I was doing. They would frisk me, check my bookbag and ask for ID. Each stop would end as soon as I produced my student ID, but there are certain places on campus, such as by the health center and near Tresidder, that I cannot walk through without remembering the tension of those days.

At the time, I did not understand why I was being stopped. Only the recent coverage on racial profiling in New Jersey, Maryland and elsewhere made me realize that my offense was that I looked Hispanic.

To this day, I feel as if I was a second-class citizen at the University. I look at my Stanford diploma on my wall to see if there is an asterisk or mark on it that questions whether I truly belonged there.

I have a question for current black and Hispanic students: Do these stops still take place? And a question to the University as a whole: If they do, what can be done to stop racial profiling at Stanford? They can forever tarnish what should be a wonderful place.

Russ Lopez, '79
Boston, Massachusetts


TITLE IX WOES

I had just finished reading an entreaty for contributions to the Buck/Cardinal Club scholarship fund and come to the conclusion that I would participate. I felt special satisfaction and the warmth of accomplishment; I was now in a position to start the process of repaying this fine organization for helping make my own attendance at Stanford possible. The funds would be in addition to my commitment to steadily increase contributions to Mark Marquess' Baseball Diamond Club.

I then opened another piece of Stanford-related correspondence and learned that a major goal of the Buck Club was to support achievement of Title IX goals. This forced my checkbook back in the drawer. Warmth and satisfaction disappeared in an instant, replaced by frustration and rage at the continued encroachment of political correctness over good sense and reality -- something I first experienced as a student when we gave up our Indian mascot for a color. Perhaps, I thought, the next objective would be to ensure that a proportional number of individuals under 6 feet in height got the opportunity to play basketball. Why not? Seems fair. Or how about a "Title X" for crappy athletes? All new teams, leagues, you name it.

I'll give directly to the baseball club. If, when the time comes, Mark asks my daughter, Riley, to play for him because she can compete with the boys, I'll be happy. If not, perhaps the gender goals of Title IX will be broadened to include perfect proportions of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, income and disability.

Riley might qualify in one of those categories, but she would have to live with the knowledge that she hadn't earned her way in. On the other hand, she may end up too stupid to care. That's it! Title XI for fair representation of stupidity! No, we're already there.

Title IX is a tax and disguised socialism. I will support neither.

Albert Austin Arthur, '75
Danville, California


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